A Collaborative Research Partnership

In June of 2008, a diverse group of interdisciplinary researchers, practitioners, pastoralists and policy makers came together in Ulanbaatar to draft a collaborative research plan to explore the role of community-based rangeland management in building resilience of pastoralist communities to climate change.

Workshop Participants


Mongolia’s intact native grasslands and history of sustainable rangeland-based livelihoods suggest that if community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is to succeed anywhere, it should work here. Mongolia has a long history of sustainable pastoralism, yet recent political-economic changes and a dramatic rise in poverty, combined with accelerating degradation, climate and land-use change threaten the balance that has long existed on Mongolia’s rangelands. Since Mongolia’s temperate grasslands are a uniquely un-fragmented example of the world’s most threatened terrestrial ecosystems, it is critical that we understand Mongolia’s socio-ecological systems, the institutions that govern resource use, and factors affecting system resilience and vulnerability.

Meeting Agenda

The research planning visit was divided into two main phases, a pre-meeting field tour (June 10-13) and a 5-day meeting in Ulaanbaatar (June 16-20). The pre-meeting field trip allowed participants from different disciplines, cultures and sectors to view ecosystems in several major ecological zones together and share their knowledge. Field trip participants also met with individual herding households and organized herder groups in several locations. For photos of the field-trip, click here.

The Ulaanbaatar meeting was divided into daily sessions with specific objectives and outputs, the agenda included days for knowledge sharing in a plenary session; small group discussions to generate research questions, hypotheses, and sampling design; and a day for feedback. The meeting was conducted in English and Mongolian with simultaneous and sequential translation. For photos of the planning meeting, click here.

Meeting Participation

Workshop Participants on Day 2

Over 100 individuals participated over 5 days, including representatives of local and national government, research and educational institutions, NGOs, donor groups, and community members. The CSU research team included Maria Fernandez Gimenez, Steven Fassanacht, Melinda Laituri, Robin Reid, and graduate students Batkhishig Baival and Corrie Knapp. The Mongolian core research team included researchers from the Mongolian Institutes of Geo-ecology, Geography, Meteorology and Hydrology, the Research Institute for Animal Husbandry, the Mongolian National University and the Mongolian Agricultural University.


Initial funding was provided by a Warner CNR mini-grant, which was leveraged over 5 times with additional financial and in-kind contributions from The World Bank, UNDP, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Mongolian Society for Range Management, and participating Mongolian research and educational institutions.

Meeting Accomplishments

The meeting was successful in creating a collaborative research plan, including a list of prioritized research needs, a draft conceptual model of the system, research questions and hypotheses and a multi-scale integrated sampling design. In addition, the meeting developed institutional relationships and secured commitments for ongoing collaborative research. With the help of workshop participants we were able to compile a database of active CBNRM projects in Mongolia to assist with research logistics. In order to improve our process and learn from it, we also documented learning about interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, cross-sectoral research collaboration. Perhaps most importantly, the workshop gave us the opportunity to build strong relationships across disciplinary, cultural and sectoral boundaries.